ISLAMABAD - Mobile phones have transformed the way we live and interact with each other; with a global ownership of 6.8 billion, they are proving a convenient means of communication and proving increasingly important in empowering the consumer.

Like the rest of the world, Pakistan will celebrate World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) tomorrow with the theme “Fix Our Phone Rights” aimed to make phone regulators and companies more accountable to the consumers i.e. access to a reliable service, security of their data and fair contracts and billing and curtailing abuse.

According to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), 128.93 million Pakistanis own mobile phones; that translates to 71.7 percent of the population! An estimated 315.7 billion SMSs were exchanged by the mobile consumers in 2012-13, an increase of 13.68 percent from previous year.

Although the uptake of cellular mobile services has had profound benefits for the country, the rise in mobile ownership has not been without its problems; the low literacy rate in Pakistan has not helped, with some elements troubling consumers with obnoxious and unwanted communication.

The misuse of SIMs is another problem facing consumers and providers alike. The PTA received 29,714 consumer complaints against mobile operators, with highest rate of complaints against the cellular sector. Illegal practices such as obnoxious, fraudulent calls/SMS constitute 17.3 percent, misuse of mobile services was 43.5 percent, Mobile Number Portability 20.4 percent of the complaints while billing, quality of services and value added services.

TheNetwork for Consumer Protection, a non-profit, non-governmental and non-partisan organization, takes the above issues very seriously. Working in Pakistan since 1992, it has been a leading advocate of consumer rights protection in Pakistan and believes that the mobile service providers should sincerely address the problems undermining mobile services so consumer rights pertaining to mobile services are protected.